For many mid-Missouri communities, implementing medical marijuana is a waiting game.
Ryan Moehlman, the Jefferson City attorney, said that while they wait for the state Department of Health and Senior Services to put more regulations in place, they’re in a research phase to figure out where their authority lies.
“It’s helpful to know what the state is doing so we aren’t trying to implement regulations that are inconsistent with state law, and then we have to go back and amend,” he said. “We want to do this one time.”
For Columbia Planning and Zoning Commissioner Michael MacMann, there might be some tweaking that has to be done since Columbia staff and the commission have already begun their own conversations about zoning medical marijuana facilities.
Pat Zenner, Columbia city planner, said they will have draft regulations available for public review after 5 p.m. on April 12 and the Planning and Zoning Commission will talk about them April 18.
There are four facility types to consider: cultivation, manufacturing, testing and dispensary.
“We have to come up with land use regulations for each of the four of those,” MacMann said. “Some of them are going to be really straightforward. Some of them are not.”
One of the bigger concerns for cities and towns in mid-Missouri is the proximity of medical marijuana facilities to schools, churches and day cares.
But the regulations indicate there is some leeway for local governments.
“On the commission, there were those individuals who wanted it as far away as possible and some that said ‘Let’s look at it recreationally, like a liquor store,'” said MacMann.
Here are the potential zoning classifications that the city is considering:
Cultivation Manufacturing Testing Dispensary Agriculture District – indoor/outdoor Mixed-used Neighborhood – Artisan Industry Mixed-use Corridor – no hazardous material Mixed-use Neighborhood Industrial District – indoor only Mixed-use Corridor – Artisan Industry Mixed-use Business Park – no hazardous material Mixed-use Corridor Mixed-use Corridor – indoor only Mixed-use Downtown – Artisan Industry Industrial Mixed-use Downtown Mixed-use Business Park – Artisan Industry Industrial Industrial
Stuwart Haynes, the Missouri Municipal League policy and membership associate, told ABC 17 News that the organization is trying to be a resource for cities and municipalities that aren’t exactly taking the lead.
He said city and town administration should take a look at the new regulations released by the DHSS.
“We are going to want our members to review those regulations and offer comments,” Haynes said. “The rules are still a draft set of rules and we need to go through those and see how they’re going to play out.”
ABC 17 News checked in with 10 mid-Missouri municipalities to find out if they were having conversations or discussions about implementation. Of the 10, only Columbia has begun to actually draft ordinances related to medical marijuana.
Cities including Ashland, Hallsville and Centralia have not begun to have serious conversations.
Cole County Commissioner Sam Bushman told ABC 17 News that they are also playing the waiting game.
“We have received some inquiries from individuals wanting to talk with us, but until we really know how the state is going to oversee this we’re waiting,” he said in an email. “I want to do thorough background checks on any company coming into Cole County before I even talk to them.”
Fulton City Administrator Bill Johnson said he did not see Fulton being a leader on the medical marijuana implementation front.
Mexico and Moberly did not respond to ABC 17 News’ calls for comment.
MacMann said that in his opinion, they should be able to have an easy time of it.
“Fortunately, since so many states have done this, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” he said. “We can look at what they’ve done, see what applies, what doesn’t, and make it fit or not fit, and add those particular things that make it work in Missouri.”
Haynes said Springfield and Warrensburg already drafted ordinances, and the MML has been able to supply those as resources for their member municipalities.
“We are a central hub for the exchange of city government information,” he said. “We try to save cities from having to reinvent the wheel.”
Johnson said Fulton plans to look to those sample ordinances that the MML has supplied, and believes they will allow a “smooth and seamless transition into that world.”
MacMann said the process will likely be time consuming and take several months to complete. But he said planning and zoning commissioners do their homework and will be prepared to make educated decisions. There will also be time for public comment.
“If you have something to say, some quality input, please come share it,” he said.